It is a device that makes a clicking noise when you press it. The sound is distinct and consistent. Consistency is an essential element of all training.
Timing is crucial when training, as even a few seconds delay can reinforce an undesirable behaviour. Clicker training is effective as it captures the exact moment when your dog is performing a desired behaviour. Once you have clicked, you then reward your dog with a treat.
The clicker tells your dog what behaviour is desirable and allows you a couple of seconds to follow up with a treat, without inadvertently reinforcing a different behaviour. The click ‘bridges’ or ‘connects’ the behaviour and its reward, and so is called a ‘bridging signal’. The dog learns quickly that once they hear the click, they will be rewarded with a treat, and will therefore want to repeat that specific behaviour.
Clicker training has been around for over 30 years and has proven to be a very effective form of training. It can be used to control an elephant or a tropical fish and almost anything in between!
Prior to training, you need to classically condition your dog to associate the 'click' with a 'reward'. Start with the clicker in one hand and a treat in the other, then 'click' and immediately give your dog the treat. The treat need to be given straight away, so have them ready! Repeat this multiple times so that your dog learns to associate the click with the treat.
Once the dog has established the connection, begin with basic good behaviour, such as being quiet, calm, sitting down, lying down, or playing unattended. We need to acknowledge these desired behaviours with a ‘click’ then a ‘reward’.
You can then move onto more advanced training. Wait until the behaviour is well understood before adding verbal commands such as the ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘down’ and ‘come’ commands.
Training is an ongoing process. Keep the sessions short, about 10 minutes at a time, to ensure the experience remains positive for both you and your pet.
Basic obedience, good manners, and fun games can easily be ‘clicker’ trained. Training can be woven into regular daily activities including walking to school, making dinner, or even watching TV.
Everyone in the family – children and adults – can participate and it is a great way to build a closer bond with your dog.